Mississauga council wants integrity commissioner to investigate allegations councillor keyed colleague's car

Mississauga council has asked the city’s integrity commissioner to investigate allegations that a sitting councillor repeatedly vandalized the vehicle of one of his council colleagues.

Councillors call on Ron Starr to take leave of absence while investigation takes place

Mississauga Coun. Ron Starr is accused of keying former councillor Karen Ras's car eight times over two years. (Mehrdad Nazarahari/CBC News)

Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie publicly apologized for not pushing harder for the integrity commissioner to investigate allegations a sitting councillor repeatedly vandalized the vehicle of one of his council colleagues. 

"This is flagrant bullying and harassment and has no place at the city of Mississauga or in any workplace," Crombie said during a news conference Thursday. 

"I'm a woman in politics and I've been on the receiving end of harassment myself. And as the leader of council, I should have done everything in my power to protect my friend and colleague."

Karen Ras stepped down last month as councillor — in part, because her Kia SUV was scratched eight times over two years while it was parked in a city hall lot reserved for council members. 

While Ras didn't say who allegedly keyed her car, sources with knowledge told CBC News that police identified Coun. Ron Starr as the suspect. Starr has denied the allegation.

Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie apologized to former councillor Karen Ras for not doing more to support her following allegations Ras was being bullied by a fellow councillor. (CBC)

On Wednesday, the same day CBC News reported the allegations, Mississauga council went into a closed session and hours later unanimously passed a motion asking the city's integrity commissioner Robert Swayze to determine whether Starr "engaged in harassing behaviour" in violation of the city's code of conduct or respectful workplace policy.

Council also called for Starr to take a leave of absence until the investigation is complete. 

Crombie told reporters Thursday that Starr had made a statement to council in the closed session and then excused himself citing a conflict of interest. 

"There is no power for council to compel anyone to take the leave of absence or to resign their seat," Crombie said. "Certainly moral persuasion is our only recourse."

Starr hasn't addressed allegations publicly

Starr was allegedly caught on camera by city hall security staff using his key to scratch the paint of the front side of Ras's Kia SUV in April 2021, according to the sources.

It's unclear why Starr allegedly damaged his fellow councillor's vehicle.

CBC News has tried to contact Starr repeatedly by phone, text and email and through his lawyer, but has not received a response.

Peel Regional Police confirmed they investigated the incident but decided not to lay charges. Instead, Starr paid about $1,250 for the damage to Ras's car, which was repaired in Augustthe sources said.

Ras said Swayze previously declined to investigate the issue when she reported it in late September. Ras also said Crombie was aware of the alleged intimidation, but didn't address it.

On Thursday, Crombie said Ras asked her to keep the matter confidential. 

"Over the last few days, I reflected deeply on this and I realize that I should have done more for Karen," Crombie said. 

Council asks commissioner to explain why he didn't investigate

Wednesday's motion directs Swayze to attend a special council meeting on Feb. 9 to explain why he didn't investigate Ras's complaint.

Mississauga's code of conduct states that all councillors must treat one another "appropriately and without abuse, bullying or intimidation and to ensure that their work environment is free from discrimination and harassment." 

It also states that all complaints involving council members violating that respectful workplace policy be referred to the integrity commissioner. If a complaint is criminal in nature, the integrity commissioner is obligated to advise the person who complained to inform the appropriate police force.

"If our integrity commissioner will not pursue his own investigation into matters that also involve the police, then there's a glaring gap in our system that must be closed as soon as possible," Crombie said.

With files from Samantha Beattie